Q. My husband died recently after being hit by a car while out on a walk. He left behind two children from two marriages.
My stepdaughter, “Belle,” is 34. My son, “Hank,” is 24 and on the autism spectrum. He lives at home and takes classes. Belle is an aspiring actress who tends bar when she doesn’t have a wealthy boyfriend to take care of her. Belle’s mom, “Jodie,” and I are very friendly.
My husband was in the hospital for two days. To their credit, Belle and Jodie drove for hours to see him. At the hospital, Belle was drunk and hysterical. This made a terrible situation worse.
At one point, Jodie told me that Belle had slapped and pushed her to wrestle the car keys from her. Hank and I were dealing with this stupid drama while my husband took his last breaths.
Hank has decided that his sister is “dangerous” and wants nothing to do with her. He said, “If she hits her mom, she might hit us!”
I told Belle and Jodie via text that the drinking was unacceptable. Jodie messaged me privately, saying that I was rude and “kicking Belle when she was down.”
If this was a one off, I might be inclined to back down. However, Belle’s young adulthood has been a series of fender benders and public intoxication citations.
I told Belle that she needed to get into therapy and/or rehab in order to stay in touch with Hank and me. Jodie is blasting me, stating that Belle has promised not to drink anymore and that my hard stance is unnecessary.
I told Jodie and Belle that I do not think you can “hug it out” when someone is an alcoholic. Am I being too harsh?
I want my son to have family around him, and Belle is his only sibling. Thoughts?
A. I’m so sorry about all you’ve been through.
You communicated your stance: “Get help or keep your distance” directly to your stepdaughter, “Belle.” Her mother, “Jodie,” responded. Jodie is also telling you how to feel and how to respond to a situation that has a direct impact on you.
Jodie is hampering her adult daughter’s chances for recovery by enabling and covering for her now.
I have a tiny quibble with your statement that you can’t “hug it out” when someone is an alcoholic, however. Hugging it out is actually all you can do. The rest is up to the alcoholic.
From here on out, you should convey: “Belle, I care about you. I hope you get the help you need to attain the sobriety you deserve to have. Your life will change so much when you do. Until then, absolutely no drinking when you are with us.”
Q. I had to respond to your answer to “Stuck,” who had a group of anti-vax/anti-maskers, as well as a vaccinated but “paranoid” family member to worry about at Thanksgiving.
I am an RN working in a COVID ICU. I’ve just finished another exhausting shift, and — as tired as I am — I had to respond.
Even though the majority of patients I see in the ICU with COVID are unvaccinated, I do see some vaccinated ones. They could be elderly, overweight, or have poor immune systems, etc. But they can still get COVID and studies show a higher risk from getting COVID from an unvaccinated carrier.
We sadly lost a 30-year-old patient today. He was vaccinated but had another health risk.
Lots of restaurants are requiring proof of vaccine to dine inside. At my Thanksgiving dinner, all must be vaccinated.
I hope others do the same. The suffering I see daily is heartbreaking.
EXHAUSTED, TIRED, FRUSTRATED, ANGRY, SAD NURSE
A. Thank you so much for the work you do, and for offering your front-line perspective on this extremely challenging topic. I genuinely appreciate it and assume that many families will be using this as their guide this year.
Q. While I thought your response to “Troubled Daughter” was spot on, you might have suggested she work with a therapist.
While I suffered nowhere near the abuse she has, I did have to have some difficult conversations with a family member.
My wonderful therapist helped to formulate a dialogue that worked for me, and we also role-played possible reactions from the family. It was incredibly empowering to know what to say and how to respond.
A. I completely agree. Rehearsing difficult conversations makes them much easier to have.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.